Tales From the Counter #6: Old Love, New Love, in the Holidaze
Written by Jenny Wonderling in December of 2012 but plucked recently from the depths of an old journal...
A couple walked into Nectar, mid-December, Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song, lights twinkling around the window displays of fancifully wrapped gifts, tables and furniture overflowing with items from all over the world. Ceramics, woven things, votives, glassware, candle holders, and ornaments of every creature and infatuation hung from silver and birch branches throughout the full and colorful shop. Amidst it all, soft fleshed, soft eyed, arm in arm, the couple was in their late 70's, or early 80's if I had to guess, but both walked with strength and purpose.
Chatting easily together, they chirped suggestions of gifts for this person or that. They seemed to especially delight in each other, something I was not at all experiencing in my own relationship at that moment. I served them each a sample of tea, restocked some lotions, rang a few other clients up at the counter, then returned occasionally, asking if they wanted anything wrapped that they had selected, or if there were any questions. Shopping can be stressful for some people, especially during the holiday season, but these two laughed often, and clearly had fun together! I found myself wondering if this was new love, or if maybe they weren't even a couple at all but intimate only as friends, dear, dear friends.
In front of the open jewelry case, the woman's strong convictions became apparent as she made statements rather than questioning herself or him. "This one is perfect for Sandy," she said, gingerly lifting a sterling necklace with a small lotus in the center.
"It is, you're right," he cooed. "I think she'll love it. She loves yoga."
"I wanted to get her something like this last year," she added. "I'm sure she'd appreciate it. Oh..." she trailed off, lifting another necklace, a silver silhouette of a branch, delicate and pretty. "I'm sure Alice would just love this one!" she exclaimed. She was fumbling a bit with the clasp. I opened it and held it to my neckline so they could get a better sense of it.
His twinkling eyes fired a smile that finished not at his lips but enlisted his whole face. I thought, this man was truly, unabashedly kind through and through, and I might add, smitten. He looked at her with such admiration, a look that seemed to say he found her endlessly entertaining. Suddenly I realized there was something else I was sensing: these two were not just friends at all. Yep, those were sparks if I ever felt sparks! Presumptuous as it may sound, this man was (dare I say) hot for this woman and she knew it and loved it, taunting him in a playful way. It must have been a cruise, I guessed. Or... A Qi Gong class? Maybe they met... through friends? Aah, love.
"Actually, no," the man contradicted, as if answering my thoughts. He was looking from the necklace I held up and then back to her neckline, ideas blossoming in those expressive eyes of his. "I haven't found the perfect gift for you yet, Martha. I'm sure Alice would like it, but I would prefer to get it for you," he beamed.
"No, Jack," she said, dismissing him gently, not wanting to reveal any excitement or even gratitude. "I don't need anything," she said resolutely.
He persisted lovingly, not taking "no" for an answer. Even if she never wore it, he seemed to want it as a memento of this moment, now, the two of them having a blast together. It was obvious the sheer delight he received in courting her.
"Thank you," she said, meaning it.
"May I ask how long you've known each other?" I asked. They both dipped a chin in an aww shucks kind of way.
"We've been married 47 years," she said without delay. He nodded in agreement with a quiet pride.
"Wow, you seem so wonderfully close, a rare thing after so long," I ventured to say. "What's your secret?"
"Oh, it wasn't always like this," he admitted. "But thankfully, life is long and this woman has patience. Loads. It takes a while to figure things out, and she has been a great teacher. Believe me, my father was not this way with my mother, that's for sure." It seemed obvious what he meant: how the man before me could truly honor his wife, not take her for granted or their time together. Her eyes glimmered with knowing, a smile sliding across her lips as she looked at him lovingly.
"It's true, and it was worth it," she added.
The moment stayed with me, the idea of mutual respect and true friendship built over time, pushing past the demons and fumbling through the differences to a place of peace. But how much time? Most of us are impatient ones in 2018...
When I got home later I saw R. I did my best to share the moment with him accurately. But rather than be equally as inspired by the couple, he dismissed my story and right away.
"Poor sucker had his balls cut off. Yes, Dear. Absolutely, Dear," he mocked. He didn't perceive the mutual honoring, of pushing past the petty, that man's beautiful respect for his wife's convictions, or hers, for all that he was.
I laughed it off, then distracted myself with the next task and the next. Still, I kept returning to the idea of our constant struggle and simultanous forward movement as a species as we try to come into greater balance in our relationships and in ourselves.
PS. All names have been changed...
End Note: Please forgive the lull in posts. I haven't written a blog in a while because I have been putting most of my spare energy into working on a book. The goal has been to weave stories from my life as a small shop owner, an often single mother, and as a woman who has had the amazing excuse to travel and explore this wild planet for work, trying to find a balance between all these things and a sense of self. But culling through the two-hundred or so journals I have poured into throughout my life (and images!) has been no small task. (And I am far from done!) But since it's the holiday season again, I thought I should get into the spirit of things, sharing this story about a couple I crossed paths with doing some holiday shopping at Nectar when our brick-and-mortar shops were still open.
Wishing you all peaceful, blessed, and forgiving holidaze ahead!